The Central Intelligence Agency just stood up a private cloud environment on infrastructure built by Amazon Web Services and, taking a cue from the private sector, is getting ready to launch an app marketplace next month.
When it goes live, the initial offering will include a few hundred applications specifically designed to meet the Intelligence Community's needs, according to CIA CIO Doug Wolfe.
"We're building it in a way that should be significant," Wolfe said after speaking at a conference hosted by Cloudera, one of the partners working with AWS to provide cloud services to the CIA. "Things that have a mission purpose — we're not just going to pull in any app."
As the CIA looked at what it wanted in a cloud environment, it became clear that having a suite of apps available to users would be an important function.
"We started looking at how we were going to apply this thing and looking at what happens commercially in a cloud structure and some folks had the idea that we need an environment that is much like the marketplace we see commercially," Wolfe said. "We are going to be delivering a private marketplace that will support the IC."
Employees will be able to sample an application to see if it meets their needs and buy subscription services to third-party apps or download open source or intra-agency offerings directly.
"The ability to do that and bypass a lot of the licensing process and everything else will be hugely valuable for our analysts and will give us the kind of mission outcomes we're looking for," he said.
While the Intelligence Community app store will only have about a tenth of the programs available in the public AWS marketplace, Wolfe said he expects it will grow over time as more mission-related apps are created.
Having an updated suite of apps available to the CIA and other intelligence agencies will allow them to stay dynamic and competitive in a changing threat environment, Wolfe said.
"I am concerned on the analytic front that we get locked in to certain solutions – that we believe we should put all our data in one place and we believe we have to run all of our data against any given tool or any given solution," he said. "I've got to believe that two years from now there's going to be the next generation of Spark or Hadoop or whatever that is and we're going to say we really need access to that and we really need to leverage that to make our mission work."
Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.